Empathy Update










So some people believe that everything happens for a reason. And others believe in serendipity*.
Either way I had to chuckle today at home cell. The topic for the evening was ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood. I turned over the page and the first task was to: ‘Take a few minutes to discuss the difference between empathy and sympathy‘. Divine intervention or coincidence – you decide!

Whether emapthetic or sympathetic, both require us to at least hear the other person’s story first by listening. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get myself into trouble by assuming things. Assuming what someone’s going to say, how they’re feeling, what they’re expecting, etc. Assuming things means we’re not effectively listening. When we are truly interested in what someone is saying, 3 important things happen:
– We give them a sense of self-worth
– Trust is built up
– We can decide what to do on the basis of knowledge rather than assumption or ignorance
Important, no?

If it’s so important, why do we find it so difficult to listen with empathy?
Pick one or all that apply…
– Desire to be appreciated for offering a wise solution
– Insufficient time to give or impatience
– Need to defend your position
– Feeling of superiority
– Distractions like noise, movement or thoughts
– Assuming you know what the person’s going to say
– Been there, done that – let me tell you about me
– Thinking of your reply
We can all probably pick at least one that we could work on if we’re honest.

*Serendipity = The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

12 thoughts on “Empathy Update

  1. Hi Alexa. I like the list you’ve given for why it’s sometimes hard to really listen to someone. I think that, if I’m honest, I’m probably most commonly guilty of wanting to be appreciated for having a great response to what someone is saying. I think we could spend ages talking about “listening” with the students but I worry that they’d look at me like I was an idiot, thinking, “But we know how to listen. We’re listening right now”. How could we build something so important and complex into an undergraduate module?

    • Yup listening and hearing are 2 different things! I know it’s a difficult thing to get across, especially at undergrad level. All the clinical knowledge seems to be the most important to cram into students’ minds that there’s hardly enough time for things like ‘listening’ or ’empathy’. But they’re such important life skills. I wonder how different/effective Physio’s would be if the undergrad level was focused on those type of skills?
      Personally, a lot of my learning to ‘listen’ came from going on the OMT1 (Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy, for others reading this) course. I’ve since been practicing to listen to patients, but also in my personal relationships. That’s sometimes even harder!

      • I’m in the process of trying to design different approaches to the undergrad curriculum in ways that not only acknowledge the role of complex characteristics (like empathy and compassion), but that actually put them centre stage. I think that the technical skills and clinical knowledge are important and that they should be valued but that they are “easy” to teach. I can show a student how to do a muscle length test in 2 minutes, but developing compassion…that’s a bigger project.

      • Sounds like you enjoy challenges, that sounds great! In the clinical world after varsity (even though to some there seems no end in sight!), what separates good Physio’s from great Physio’s is HOW they interact with their patients. If Physio A and Physio B know the same methods/techniques/theory, the difference comes in the delivery. A patient buys into the treatment because they feel heard, understood and part of the decision making process. If you got taught the ‘how’ at varsity… well then!

  2. Hi
    I am only now doing the first week of the course and it took me a whole day to set up with some help from my friends. I really enjoyed the reflections of this dialogue and wish that I was aware of the course from the beginning as I am now trying to catch up.
    It is so easy to be locked up in your own thoughts and assumptions as you put so well, Alexa, and I am so guilty of this.

    • Welcome Angela!
      It must be a bit overwhelming starting halfway through but it’s worth it! I’ve been learning a lot and its been so interesting. Hopefully we’ll all have expanded our world view by the end of this!

    • Hi Angela. It’s great to see you interacting already. I just wanted to really highlight that there’s no rush for you to catch up. The SASP participants are going to be running on a different timeline to take into account the fact that the course was delayed in being accredited. It’s going to finish in the middle of September for SASP participants, as opposed to the end of August.

  3. Pingback: Topic of the week: Empathy | SnapShotTempo AKA The Mosiac Poet

  4. Pingback: Empathy | pdinspire

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